I really didn’t want to go to Gooseberry yesterday. Natural inertia was high, aided by grumpy morning weather, but I went and it turned out to be a great visit because I found a pair of Red-throated Loons – rare for me – and this after being greeted by Turkeys on the way there.
OK, don’t look for the red throat, but examine this pair on the bay side of the causeway and . . .
. . . compare them to this one snapped on the west side of the causeway a couple minutes later. (You’ll probably need to click to enlarge the images. )
What I see in the first shot in the loon closest to the camera is a white neck that goes all the way up and around the eye and thin black area down the back of the neck. Contrast that with the white area on the loon in the second picture. There are two other differences I noticed. The first loon seems more delicate, is floating lower, and is holding it’s bill with a slight upturn. All that makes it a Red-throated Loon. The one with it doesn’t have so much white on the throat, but I think it’s another red-throated, but a juvenile. (As always, corrections welcome!) The overall differences in bulk and shape remind me of the more delicate appearance of the American Golden Plover when ompared to its “street brawler” cousin, the Black-bellied Plover – or the difference between the Common Merganzer and the Red-brested Merganzer.
I rarely have seen a Red-throated Loon. The first – and only – one I recall was seen off Plum Island (north of Boston) about 15-20 years ago and was pointed out by an experienced birder we saw there who had it in his telescope and let us look. I can still recall him talking about the upturned beak and I have carefully examined the loons I see form time to time – mostly at Gooseberry – for this trait. Nothing until this encounter – so yes, that made by trip – which started out with this encounter on Rt .88 about half a mile from Gooseberry. (OK – the picture was taken through the car windshield as I rolled past, so it’s lousy. Until a decade or so ago the wild turkey was never encountered in these parts. Now they are quite common – and quite tame for a bird that is hunted and reportedly difficult to bag. The ones I see seem to stand around discussing the scenery and ignoring people.
Actually, when I got to Gooseberry the first thing I noticed as I started out the causeway was this Common Eider – and I wondered if this is a juvenile on its way to adult plummage, or an adult male changing into mating plummage? But as near as I can tell from Sibleys it is an adult male going into mating plummage which they assume from October to June – well good for them! No wonder I’m seeing so many more of them.
What I still haven’t pinned down is this next one – it looks to me like a female Common Eider and I see them often, but none of my books show those two white lines in the area of the wing and I can’t find any other duck that has two and looks like this?
The bird that seemed to zing by when Bren and I were walking the other day and I thought might be a Black-bellied Plover? Well, I’m more convinced that’s what it is because I saw one zipping from the area of the parking lot to Bar Rock as I left and in flight it showed the white rump and black tail as I remembered and when it landed I was certain it was a Black-bellied Plover.